Is there a way to balance good Usability with SEO? We will delve into the issues surrounding Usability and SEO, their advantages & disadvantages, and demonstrate how you can include both without damaging your site’s Page Rank.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about attracting the right people to your site and making sure you show up in search engines, but the main problem with SEO is that it can undermine user experience depending on how excessively it is used, this is mainly referred as ‘Over-Optimisation’.
Usability is about behaviour after the user arrives on your site, converting users into potential buyers. Usability allows us to make good, solid decisions about design and user experience, but implementing a full scale usability test on a site can have its drawbacks, one being the expense of developing a usability plan, recruiting, and user audits, which depending on the business or budget can be a waste and won’t yield the best possible results. There are easier and more cost effective ways around optimising your site.
Using Google Analytics is good way of monetising your sites, having control in collecting and analysing web usage data is a step closer to understanding your visitor’s experiences, and using this data can improve your usability. Another usability feature recently introduced to Google Analytics is In-Page Analytics, which tracks each click on links, mouse movement and mouse clicks. The brighter the colour, the more clicks that area has had, this feature is similar to heat map analytics, but integrated into Google Analytics. Cleaning up your site inherently goes towards improving user experience, which in turn helps to improve your SEO.
SEO relies on the control and influence of Google rankings, which mainly involves content, meta-data and keywords to achieve better placement in search engine results, but SEO is a lot bigger than how people define it. Newer ranking factors are constantly being updated by Google, and great SEO today can’t be established without influencing areas such as Marketing, Design, User Experience, PR, Customer Service and Sales. Usability is one of these areas that has become more important in the newer Google updates.
Usability is the quality that reflects a website’s ease of use in real world tasks and SEO controls and influences these ranking factors . The point I’m getting towards is that improving on one of these areas inherently improves on the other.
Usability and SEO are different, but the characteristics are very similar. They also support each other, but also conflict. One of the ways they conflict is that SEO requires a strong influence on unique content, the more content on a page, the more chances keywords can be crawled and indexed. The problem that soon rises is that the website has too much content, and referred by Google as keyword stuffing, which is considered as an unethical SEO tactic. They has to be a balance of content density with the appropriate keywords to be accepted by Google, not to mention the content needs to be readable by the user.
Another scenario that you might come across is when content is hidden for accessibility the user has the opportunity to view more of the content, this has some usability benefits that allows for more content to be used while looking as there is the optimal amount of content on the page. But text or links that are hidden are considered by Google as manipulating the search rankings and seen as deceptive and in violation of Google Webmaster guidelines.
When working on projects, the primary issue is focusing on the design and usability of the site, but say for instance the design of a site was user tested, but had no SEO, the site would not get as many visitors as expected. Conversely, if the site had great SEO but no usability, the site would not have good Click-Through Rate (CTR) and won’t turn as many visitors into customers.
It is more beneficial to first optimise for usability. If the site has great usability and improves the visitors engagement in the site, the site will eventually generate traffic to the right audience.
Search Engine Opimisation can be included anytime during or after the site has been developed to increase your conversion rates and traffic even further, but always consider balancing your efforts in both usability and SEO when designing your site. Speaking of designing sites, we do that, get in contact with us today to see how we can help.